November 2018 News

Sharda Uni Student Joins ISJK, Threatens Caliphate In Kashmir

2 November 2018
The Quint
Ahmed Ali Fayyaz

Srinagar: Ehtisham Bilal, the Kashmiri student of Sharda University who went missing in Greater Noida on Sunday, 28 October, is claimed to have joined the ultra-radical militant outfit, Islamic State of Jammu and Kashmir (ISJK). The Jammu and Kashmir Police chief believed that he had joined the local militant organisation Hizbul Mujahideen. 'We have reasons to believe that he arrived in Srinagar on 28 October, and that he has joined, most probably, the Hizbul Mujahideen,' Dilbag Singh, Director General of Jammu and Kashmir Police, told The Quint. 'Someone has put his photo as DP on Facebook, but we are still verifying that. We believe he joined Hizbul Mujahideen immediately after his arrival in Srinagar on 28 October, and he is present somewhere in the Valley', the DGP added. 'You should speak to his father and ask him whether or not he spoke to his son on the 28th on phone. We have observed that immediately after his arrival at Srinagar airport, Ehtisham spoke to his father,' said the DGP. Ehtisham's father, Bilal Ahmad Sofi, confirmed his telephonic conversation with his 21-year-old son around 4:30 pm on 28 October. Asked if Ehtisham called him from Srinagar airport, Sofi said, 'In fact, I called him. Yes, we spoke on telephone'. Sofi did not respond to more questions, pleading that he was 'not in a position to attend a call this time'. The DGP claimed that Ehtisham's perceived flight to militancy was not a consequence of the 'clash' between the students at Sharda University and the 'assault' on him. 'If there was an assault, why isn't there an FIR in Noida? The other day, my IGP spoke to police in Greater Noida. He learned that there was no assault, no FIR about a clash,' the DGP asserted. Most of the middle-rung police officers in Srinagar, as well as those associated with Anti-hijacking unit of Security Wing of Jammu and Kashmir Police at Srinagar Airport, maintained that they had no knowledge of Ehtisham having arrived in Srinagar. They claimed that nobody had asked them to find whether or not the missing student of this name had arrived in from New Delhi. 'I don't know anything about it. Nobody asked me to trace anybody of this name,' said Tejinder Singh, Senior Superintendent of Police, Budgam, who controls Humhama Police Post at Srinagar Airport. Tahir Saleem, SSP Anti-Hijacking at Srinagar Airport, said he didn't know if anybody had asked for or scanned the CCTV footage of 28 October. 'I have no idea of it as I have been in Punjab for the last three days. I can check tomorrow if the CCTV footage has been scanned and if it has revealed anything about the missing student's arrival in Srinagar,' Saleem said. His subordinate officials at the airport were not reachable. Minutes after DGP's conversation with The Quint, purportedly militant groups on social media claimed that Ehtisham had joined ISJK. While there has been no statement from Hizbul Mujahideen or ISJK, photographs showing Ehtisham with background of ISIS banners have appeared on social media. In an audio message addressed to Kashmiris, Ehtisham purportedly claims to have joined ISJK, owing allegiance to Al-Qaeda and Abu Bakar Baghdadi's ISIS. He is heard pledging to set up a caliphate (Islamic State) in Kashmir. He is also heard claiming that he decided to join ISJK after he was 'brutally attacked by the non-believers' at his university. Police said they were checking the veracity of this audio clip and the photographs showing Ehtisham as a militant. Ehtisham had disappeared from his hostel on mysterious circumstances on 28 October. He had reportedly told his roommate and cousin that he would go to New Delhi to see a friend or relative. According to some reports, Ehtisham called his father and asked for Rs 1,000. His father then transferred Rs 5,000 to his bank account, out of which he had drawn Rs 400. His parents and fellow students turned anxious, after which the warden of his hostel, along with Ehtisham's cousin, filed a missing report with Knowledge Park Police Station. A day later, police in Greater Noida claimed to have learned from Ehtisham's call records that his phone had remained switched off for most of the time on 28 October, but it had shown its tower location around Srinagar when he spoke to his father. According to reports, Ehtisham told his father that he was in New Delhi and about to board a metro for Noida. However, he neither reached his hostel in Noida nor his home in Khanyar area of Srinagar. On 4 October, a clash had reportedly occurred on the campus of Sharda University between Indian and Afghan students. Ehtisham was reportedly mistaken as an Afghan student and roughed up by a group of the Indian students. He was a student of the Bachelors in Medical Imaging Technology (BIMT). Videos of that clash had gone viral in social media. Ehtisham's father is said to have then rushed to Greater Noida and stayed there till 10 October. He was reportedly approached by District Magistrate and asked if he wanted to file an FIR against the students who had manhandled his son. Sofi declined, saying he treated all students like his son. Former J&K Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti was the first among politicians to tweet on the matter, asking Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh to trace the missing student. 'Cause of grave concern that Ehtishaam Bilal, a student at Sharda University who was assaulted is reportedly missing. Request @rajnathsingh ji to take note of it and direct the authorities to track him at the earliest,' Mufti tweeted on 30 October.